Bobby Dalbec bats at the College World Series Championship Series on June 28, 2016 in Omaha, Neb.
You won’t find any bona fide major-league stars on the U.S. baseball team that opened play in the WBSC Premier12 event on Saturday.
You won’t find any players on a big league 40-man roster, for that matter. What you will find, however, are some MLB veterans and some of the country’s top major league prospects all hoping to not only make a name for themselves but also help the U.S. lock down a qualifying spot for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
The major-league stars of tomorrow didn’t disappoint as Team USA opened the tournament with a 9-0 win over the Netherlands in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Saturday.
Drew Waters, the No. 2 prospect in the Atlanta Braves organization and the No. 23 prospect overall according to MLB Pipeline, kicked things off for the U.S. with a solo shot in the bottom of the first inning. Jacob Cronenworth scored on a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0 and then Jo Adell, the 10th overall pick by the Los Angeles Angels in 2017, crushed a ball over the left-field fence in the third inning.
Bobby Dalbec, a fourth-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2016, kept it going in the fifth inning after the Netherlands intentionally walked Daulton Varsho to load the bases and he made them pay with a grand slam that gave the U.S. a 7-0 lead.
Brent Rooker, the 2017 SEC player of the year and the No. 35 overall pick by the Minnesota Twins that same year, hit a pinch-hit, two-run home run in the eighth to cap off the scoring.
Right-hander Cody Ponce, a second-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers who was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in July, held the Netherlands scoreless through five innings with just two hits, both leadoff singles, one walk and five strikeouts. Noah Song, Clayton Andrews, Brooks Pounders and Clayton Richard kept the shutout in relief.
This tournament is the first chance for Olympic qualification for Team USA.
Only six teams will compete in Tokyo next summer as opposed to eight in past Olympic tournaments. Two of those spots will be awarded as the Premier12 features the top 12 teams from around the world in 32 games on two continents between now and Nov. 17.
The U.S. group includes host Mexico, the Dominican Republic and the Netherlands. The top two teams from the three groups will advance to a six-team Super Round, which will be played in Japan. From there they’ll move to playoffs.
The top-finishing team from the Americas, which includes Mexico, the U.S., the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Cuba and Canada, will earn one Olympic spot.